Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not.
God hates stealing. He will punish thieves, but He will also punish anyone that protects thieves. If you protect a thief, you must hate yourself, because you are bringing God’s judgment on yourself. When you can report a thief or testify against one, you better do it.
Understand this proverb. When you are in a court of law under oath, you had better tell the truth and reveal all you know about a thief. If you do not disclose everything, you are choosing to be a partner with a thief, and God will justly punish you along with the thief.
Consider how bad your sins are for not telling the truth in court – you have added lying as a false witness to the stealing by the thief that you are protecting. God hates the sin of being a false witness and those who commit it, as Solomon clearly wrote (Pr 6:16-19).
Can you cover for a thief and be innocent? Do you think your sin is mild, since you did not steal anything yourself? You are a fool; you hate your own soul; judgment is coming. God hates accomplices as much as thieves. Do not deceive yourself that you are innocent. If you can expose a criminal or help solve a crime, it is your duty to tell all.
Partnership with a thief is explained by the second clause. When property owners, civil magistrates, or other authorities confront you with oaths, you deny you know anything. You may not have driven the getaway vehicle, but you did not expose the thief when questioned. How very often children and young men are faced with this moment of truth.
Cursing here is an oath to tell the truth (Num 5:21; Judges 17:2). In America, witnesses in court hear, often with their right hand raised to God and their left hand on a Bible, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” This is hearing the curse of a ruler, which should motivate witnesses to tell the truth.
Proper swearing is an act of worship, for you honor Jehovah God as the highest Judge in the universe. Israel had to swear by the name LORD Jehovah (Ge 24:3; Deut 6:13; 10:20; Jer 4:2). They affirmed truth with these words: “As the LORD liveth” (Jer 38:16). When you swear this holy way, you better keep your vows (Ec 5:1-7). What blasphemy that Jehovah’s Witnesses will not swear in God’s glorious name they stole from the Bible!
Proper swearing, by appealing to Almighty God, the highest authority in the universe, is intended to end any consideration or possibility of lying (Heb 6:16). Moses ordered such swearing to get to the bottom of matters, including theft (Exodus 22:8-15; Deut 21:1-9; I Kings 8:31-32; 22:16). It is a wise practice, and it brings extra judgment on liars.
And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.
What does bewray mean? It means to reveal a matter. Since “bewrayeth” is no longer in common usage in English, let the Oxford English Dictionary provide a definition:
Bewray. To expose (a person), by divulging his secrets, or telling something that one knows to his discredit or harm. To reveal, divulge, disclose, declare, make known, show.
Consider also the Holy Spirit’s use of the word. An odious woman cannot be hid, for she will bewray – reveal, declare, or show – what she is, as sure as perfume is smelled when you pass near a person wearing it (Pr 27:16). Everyone knows she is an obnoxious example of her sex, and that her husband is to be pitied for his terrible plight. And Peter’s speech bewrayed – revealed or indicated – he was of Galilee (Matt 26:73).
If you are asked about a theft under oath or by an authority, and you do not reveal the criminal, you are guilty of two crimes (Ex 20:15-16). You should fear God more than any man (Pr 29:25); hindering justice is a great sin (Ex 23:1-7; Deut 19:15-21); such a helpful disclosure to rightful authority is not tattling or talebearing at all (I Tim 5:13; I Cor 1:11).
You may likely never testify in court about a theft. But other situations call for you to tell the truth and expose wrongdoing by others. Parents confront and question children, teachers and principals do so to students, and employers do so to employees. They need information to punish evildoers and protect others. They have a right to know.
Will you remember this proverb and reveal a sibling, a fellow student, or a fellow employee? Consider the consequences. If you cover for a crime, you must hate yourself, because judgment from God is coming down on you along with the criminal himself. It is your duty before God and men to disclose and reveal wrongdoers when you are asked.
This proverb has wisdom. Honesty is crucial for an orderly society. Legal oaths have an important role. You can earn God’s favor or judgment by what you do with information about a crime. God is a glorious Judge that will not tolerate perjury. Protecting a sinner is to be guilty with the sinner. God requires and enforces truth and property rights.
Jesus Christ kept total silence during his long and fraudulent trial; Pilate marveled (Mark 15:5; Is 53:7). But when sworn to tell the truth by the high priest, He answered directly and honestly (Matt 26:63-64). Then He gave the high priest and other leaders a sober warning about the horrible judgment He would bring on them! Do you know this glorious King? Have you humbled yourself and declared Him Lord of your life by word and deed?